Grand Opening this Weekend August 15th and 16th

It’s finally here the grand opening of our new tasting room.  We will be open this Saturday August 15th from 11-4, and Sunday August 16th from 12-4.  The tasting room is located at 1800 Day Road in Gilroy, CA 95020.  We had a successful soft opening two weekends ago which we used to test everything we needed to have working and delivered.  Thanks to all our friends and neighbors who stopped by to kick the tires!

Now we’re ready to invite everyone over!  We will be pouring 5 wines for $10.  The tasting price is refunded with any bottle purchased.  Wine Club members enjoy free tasting and an additional assortment of wines.  This weekend  we will be featuring all of our recent medal winning wines including three gold medal winners: 2013 Chardonnay, 2012 Nueva Casa de los Padres and our 2012 Mourvedre (wine club only).   Our tasting area includes picnic benches so bring your picnic with you!

Many of our local friends will also be open this weekend so come make a day out of it.  There are 15+ wineries within 10 miles of us now and we have lots of good recommendations for everyone.  See you this weekend!


Front Yard & Garden Update

The garden had a little bit of frost/cold damage that got to the potato plants.  They are recovering now and everything else is doing great.  I also lost seedlings in the cold so will have to restart my tomato plants and herbs.    I harvested a leek and a few asparagus spears so far.  The lettuce and swiss chard is just about big enough to make a micro green salad or two for us also.

I put in a couple of strawberry plants and I’m making a second try at artichokes.  The first try I started in the clay soil and they did poorly.  This time around I’m starting them in the planter boxes and will move them to the ground when they get mature enough to deal with the heavy soil.  Since an artichoke is permanent I don’t want to leave it in a planter box.










I should have put these crash pictures up originally of the front yard but I think they were on my work phone and I didn’t have them to upload when I did the last blog.  The front originally had a group of very mature chestnut trees and oleanders along with other trees and shrubs.  There were also some pretty pitiful grape vines on a rickety old trellis.  I removed the vines and trellis right away.  Anyone who would have seen the condition of those vines and trellis would have thought there was no way we know what we’re doing.

This first picture shows the area that was damaged by the two crashes.  The first took out most of the oleanders and damaged the chestnuts.  I had just cut down the chestnuts when the second crash took out most of the rocks and the remaining plants on the south side of the strip.










This is the car in the driveway crashed into an olive that I’d cleaned up earlier.  It stopped about 100 feet from it’s original impact and flip over point.  One large boulder (about 150 pounds) ended up in the creek 200 feet from where it started.  You can trace the impacts as it skipped across the yard.








I wanted to get these up so I can put up some after pictures after all the work we’ve done to repair things up front.  There are new trees and shrubs and strategically located 6x6x6 posts, which will also form a fence and eventually gate.  We put in a lot of reflectors also to provide some visual warning as the plants mature.  I should be done with the first round of work this weekend and just have the fence and gate left to do.

Work Goes On

That’s it, the new tasting room.  Doesn’t look like much yet, and it won’t be much as we start out, but it’s in place and in the permit process.  Our plan is to roll the doors up and have people come right in to what will be card tables at first.  As we get going we’ll make improvements (like interior walls and a ceiling).  We’ve applied to have the outdoor area available also so we can set up some picnic benches for people to enjoy the outside.

We’re working on the parking situation this weekend.  There is room for about 20 cars right now in the drive through and up to 20 more along Madrid Road.  The problem is we’ve had two crashes through the front in the last month and I’ve had to remove and cut down all the trees that created a barrier between the road and the parking area.  I’m putting a new ‘Defense in Depth’ in the front with 500+ pound boulders, 6×6 posts, redwoods and a fence.

In the meantime the property is keeping us very busy.  Here’s last weeks activity.  This is the back of the property along Madrid where I can have overflow parking before 5 hours with the weedwhacker.










This is after I finished.  I wish I had taken more before and after photos.  I’ve already done a ton of clean up inside the tasting room, but didn’t take a single before picture to share.  Oh well


Settling In

No we haven’t totally dropped of the grid, so it’s time for a quick catch up.  We did get moved in to our new place in September and finished our move out of Chaine d’Or and in to our new place in Salinas in December.  All our production was at the new facility last harvest and we have a bunch of new wines and some old favorites we’re working on from 2014.  We’re very happy with the new facility and it was much easier on us with the additional help to handle set up and clean up.  The drive was also much shorter and easier and we put far less miles on the FJ this Fall.

We’ve been very busy of course with all the moving and settling in to our new home.  The building that will become the tasting room is all cleaned up and ready to go, we’re just waiting on the government now for permits.

I thought the best way to run through an update was with some pictures:

First the little kittens are growing like crazy and loving their new home.












We got the bar set up in the new house right away:












We’re still eating Primal:












And we did go to New Orleans on our annual trip:










Spending way too much time in the care of Fay at Coops:










When we got home there were never ending chores and clean up to do.  We hauled away 8 truck loads of yard debris, cut down treees, repaired things and just general new home stuff like stacking a cord of wood:










We had frequent  wildlife visitors with the turkey’s being the most common:










And they like the backyard too:










Stefania hasn’t shot anything yet but she’s ready just in case:












We put a new cellar in and we’re trying to decide what to plant which means lots of research:












Which means more Primal food lick smoked duck legs:

primal duck









With the New Year I’ve started a garden:










And have more seedlings ready to go in:










All this is enough to tucker out a kitty and keep us from writing regularly.  We may be on a monthly summary now, at least until we get the tasting room going.




and…..Big News Part 3

The new place.  Nope we’re not moving to New Orleans, that was the first guess of a few people.  We found this nice ranch house just outside of Gilroy right on the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail.

The ‘fast ball down the middle’ was being offered a property where we currently manage the vineyard.  We hadn’t thought about moving, or the South Valley as a location, and we had no idea if we could come close to affording it.  We dove right in though and started doing our research and putting together our list of things we needed and wanted in a house.  That first vineyard house didn’t work out but we decided after viewing a dozen or so properties to make it happen somewhere.

Stefania actually found it on line and it was in contract but we asked our agent if we could go see it because it looked like it was a benchmark for what we were after.  We loved it but houses in contract in Santa Clara County NEVER go to the back up offer so we didn’t get our hopes up.  A few weeks later though we got another fastball when the contract fell through.  The owners really wanted their next offer to come from ‘country people’ and not ‘city people’ who would understand all the complications of wells, wildlife, propane and country living.  Our agent told them “Are you kidding they are farmers and own a winery”.

I’ll put the address in our Fall offer letter for people on our mailing list, but here are some of the highlights:

The hillside, were we will plant the new Haut Tubee vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre.  We have just over 2 acres total and will plant about one.






The new back patio where friends and visitors can finish off those bottles of wine and dip into the scotch and cigar collection.  If you look closely you’ll see there’s a breezeway.  On the left is the main house, on the right is the wine cellar and guest suite.  The guest suite has a separate entrance and a full bath, bedroom and kitchen (as soon as we install the appliances).  We finally have a place for our out of town visitors.  The original owners did canning and built a full cool room that we’ll convert into a temperature controlled wine cellar.








The new kitchen.  This should make it much easier to pull together those dinners for 10-20 we seem to have all the time.









My plan is to get in the pool on the first day.  I’m going to wear my suit under my moving clothes 🙂







This second garage was used to sell fruits and vegetables grown on the property for many years.  I’m going to revive that garden as soon as I can.  This building though will become our new tasting room.  There’s enough room to park 20-30 cars at a time and have an office as well as tasting room.  It’s just a shell right now so we have to clean it up and put some walls in place.  Depending on how harvest goes and the permitting process we may try to open as soon as Nov 1 but early next year is more likely.

We are very excited and can’t wait to have our first visitors.  Our move date is Friday Sept. 5th.
tasting room

The Day Job

The number one question we used to get was; “Who takes care of your vineyards”.  We still do get that question from time to time from people just meeting us.  Now though the number one question is, “Are you doing this full time?”

The answer is yes and no.  Since we get that questions so much I thought it was time for a crew review.

Millie has been with us the longest, since 2004.  She works for us about 2 days per week on average.  She does vineyard work and any construction tasks we have.  When we do vineyard installations she’s the lead person on those.

Herrardo has been with us since 2007.  We usually refer to him as Jerry since people have a hard time pronouncing Herrardo.  He’s working about one day per week on average.  He does our heavy labor including construction work, netting and major repairs.  He also puts together our crews for us when we need larger groups.  Mostly the crews are his family.

Ron has been with us since 2010.  He works a few days a month on local sales for us.  Getting our wine into local restaurants in Santa Cruz and San Jose.

Jaye is our newest person.  She’s in the picture above working in the winery.  She joined us last September.  She’s done everything for us, vineyard work, winery work, shipping and she’s starting to do a little bit of sales work.  Our plan is when we open a tasting room she’ll run that.  She’s working about 30 hours a week for us.

Stefania is full time and gets a paycheck now, which she cashes about once every 7 weeks 🙂  She’s really become the General Manager.  She runs everything day to day and handles all the winery and vineyard management including the finance side of the business and dealing with vendors.

So my usual response to the questions is; “I still have a day job, someone has to have health insurance.”  I run a group of about 50 support engineers, managers and account managers in the software part at a very big high tech company.  I’ve been there 8 years and have enough vacation time that I can take off the 15-20 days a year when my presence in the winery is really critical.  These days most of my tasks are planning vineyard maintenance and doing the winemaking.

Sexy Fishnets – NOT

After this year we will have outgrown the space at Chaine d’Or.  We’ve got a few plans we’ve been kicking around and the one we finally choose will largely depend on how sales go over the next 12 months.  We could go back to doing part of our production at another facility.  There are a few options and a few people we like working with.

We’ve could also open our own facility.  We’ve talked about doing this some where in San Jose in either an urban or suburban facility.  That would make our commute easier and let us lay things out the way we’d like to do them.  That’s expensive though since we’d need a lot of new equipment.  If we do that option we know we’ll need to open a tasting room as part of the facility to drive more local sales and offset some of the costs of running the facility.

We’ve talked about what we want from a tasting room and we’re planning this summer on touring in Napa and Sonoma to get ideas on what to do and not to do.  I’m really leaning towards a modern or post modern look.  Glass and chrome.  I like the idea of doing a walk around facility too rather than a bar.  Something more like the Apple Store, with pouring and information stations that you could approach and linger at.  Maybe one for each vineyard with a slide show of the vineyard you could view.  Instead of the pouring staff standing behind a bar looking at you, they’d move around with people in the facility, letting them go to the station they wanted to explore and answer questions in an informal environment.

I’d also like to tie in a lounge area.  When you’ve had your fill of information and tasting, a place to sit comfortably and review the wines.  Maybe that’s a ‘Wine Club Lounge’ that you could plan a longer visit at with light snacks and music.  I’d like really nice professional photos of the vineyards to decorate the walls.  We’ve talked about what else we might sell in the area and we’re pretty sure we’d limit it to just a few things and have those be very high quality and unique. Something you wouldn’t see in another tasting room.  We also want to have space for visiting artists that we enjoy.

We won’t have $5.99 fake fish netting.  I promise, no matter what.  I actually was offered that in email today.  Something to add to our tasting room.  Fake fish netting?  Does this make the wine better?

The Tasting Room

Tasting time

We often get asked if we have a tasting room or plan on having one. In fact at the last event we did one woman reacted like we’d lost a loved one when we said: “no”. “Oh, well maybe some day you will, just hang in there” she said.

I have really mixed feelings about the tasting room idea. Well mixed in that I’m 5% for it and 95% against it. It would be nice to have the additional sales outlet and it would probably let us grow sales faster. It would also be nice to have a place to meet friends and host events that wasn’t restricted to the space in our backyard. It would also be great to have a venue where we could feature the art of some of our friends.

The 95%? Well I got this as the lead paragraph in an email this morning from a local winery, I changed some of the names to ‘Blah’ to protect the guilty:

“Why not start the holiday weekend early with us today during our “Time for Wine” Blah Series?! We have “The Chris Blah Band” playing today and “Carlos Blah Music Trio” will be playing on Sunday for “Groovin’ in the Blah.” Don’t forget about scheduling a VIP tour and tasting or playing a game of bocce ball!”

One word, as an after thought about wine. It’s not even directly about wine, it’s about scheduling a VIP tour. That just isn’t our gig. We didn’t start making wine to play bocce ball and groove in the blah. We make wine to make great wine and share it with friends.

That’s a great risk of a tasting room. The venue and the sales from it start to drive what the winery does and the wine you make. The tasting room manager is sure to come to you and say things like: “An $11 Chardonnay would be great, and why don’t we get some of that Almond Champagne.” If someone told me I needed to make an $11 Chardonnay and Almond Champagne I’d kick them in the shin, not go along with the idea.

“Let’s host bridezilla” comes next and then you find yourself avoiding your own facility because you hate everyone hanging out there. So don’t shed a tear when we say “no we don’t have a tasting room”. There’s a reason we don’t. We like our customers, we consider them friends, and we want to keep it that way.